Information fuels action - what we’ve learned, and what we are still learning to be better allies.
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This is not ok.

The abhorrent injustice and subsequent outpouring of rage surrounding the death of George Floyd has harshly highlighted how ignorant we, and so many others have been. 

As humans - we’re conditioned to react to challenging scenarios in three ways - fight, flight, or freeze. We’ve been freezing and fleeing for too long, by staying silent and thinking we can remove ourselves from situations. The thing about conditioned responses though, is that they are learned behaviours, that can be changed. And the first thing to arm ourselves with, to go from freeze and flight, into fight - is knowledge. 

Always on the search for the science behind everything - we ended up in a spiral of studies on the neuroscience of implicit bias, some of which we’ve shared with you below.

The more we all know about the issue of racial injustice - the closer we’ll be to a world where equality is implicit, not bias.

What is Implicit Bias? 

Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes that we all have, that unconsciously affect our actions, decisions and understanding.  They are involuntary and embedded deep in the subconscious, and may be in-line with or contrary to a person's outward belief system. 

They start from a really young age, through exposure to direct and indirect messages - and cause feelings and attitudes (both good and bad), about people based on their ethnicity, age, gender, and appearance. 

Implicit biases impact every decision made by every person, and so predict behaviour in every aspect of the real world - from classrooms, to health care, to the justice system. 

Importantly though, implicit biases are malleable. They are learned over time, and through knowledge and neuroplasticity can gradually be changed.

Bias starts in Infancy

Research from the University of Toronto found that babies as young as six months display racial bias towards their own race, and against those from other races. One study showed that babies associated happy music with members of their own race and sad music with people from other races, and were more inclined to learn from an adult of their own race. 

“These findings thus point to the possibility that racial bias may arise out of our lack of exposure to other-race individuals in infancy,” author of the studies, Professor Kang Lee said. “Implicit racial biases tend to be subconscious, pernicious, and insidious,” he said. “It permeates almost all of our social interactions, from health care to commerce, employment, politics, and dating. Because of that, it’s very important to study where these kinds of biases come from and use that information to try and prevent racial biases from developing.”

👉 Read more about this

AI

Artificial Intelligence, by definition, is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. But, when you consider that humans are responsible for creating artificial intelligence, and are by nature harbouring implicit biases - it’s inevitable that AI technology will in effect, have those same prejudices coded into it. 

The AI facial recognition systems being sold and used by giants like Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft all perform substantially better on male faces than female, and have error rates of less than 1% for lighter-skinned men. For dark-skinned women, error margins are 35% - with systems failing to recognise Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams - uncovered in this research by Joy Buolamwini.

This algorithm bias has potentially huge knock-on effects in society - from the kind of “influencers” that are deemed the most successful on Instagram (out of the top 100 Instagram influencers, the vast majority of them are white iterations of very similar faces), to unlocking our phones, right up to the catastrophic impact this could have if used by the police force. 

👉 Read more about this

Biased healthcare

In the US, a study found that a widely used algorithm used to discern which patients will benefit from extra care dangerously underestimates the needs of black patients who are the most unwell, instead favouring white patients with lesser needs. 

While this was not an intentional bias - race was deliberately excluded from the data - the algorithm analysed how much each patient would cost the healthcare system in the future. But, cost isn’t a race-neutral measure of a person’s healthcare needs. Black patients incurred substantially lesser costs per year than white patients with the same number of health conditions - so the algorithm scored white patients as equally at risk of future health problems as black patients who had many more diseases.

👉 Read more about this

In deaths related to pregnancy, research found a huge racial imbalance. Of all pregnancy-related deaths - 3 out of 5 of which were preventable, African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women are three times more likely to die than white women - which was attributed to racial bias and subsequent impacted care within America’s healthcare system.

👉 Read more about this

Understanding our own Implicit Bias

Even if you don’t think it’s possible that you may be biased in any way - chances are that you are, in ways you’d never imagine or consciously think of. Understanding that is the first step to unlearning those behaviours.

👉 Take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test

👉 The Look Different 7 Day Bias Cleanse

We’ve created a long list of resources and causes to donate to - that we’re happy to share in full (please reply to this email), but here’s a selection to start:

Reading list for grown-ups:
Reading list for kids:

Watch list:

Ted Talks about Bias:
Documentaries, Movies, and Shows:
Accounts to follow:
Where to donate: 
These are just a handful of worthy causes, for a more comprehensive list - see Black Lives Matter.

Final Thoughts

This is all over the news right now, as it should be - but it's just the tip of the iceberg. It’s important to commit to change and continue to educate ourselves and fight racism in the long term. 

But, something you can do to have an impact right now is donate. 

This month we will be donating proceeds from our Work In sessions, and £10 from every new customer to BAATN, the UK's largest independent organisation that specialises in working psychologically with Black, African, Asian and Caribbean people.

One of the primary aims of BAATN is to address the inequality of access to appropriate psychological services. They work to acknowledge and value the emotional pain and distress caused by racism, oppression and cultural conditioning, including facing our own internal and external oppression.

One easy way to support them and manage your anxiety levels is to sign up for our next work in this Thursday with Dr Rangan Chatterjee all about managing stress - and you can donate directly to BAATN whilst getting your ticket.

In the meantime, let's all do our part to do better and be better,

Dan

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